I have been on the search for The Perfect Oil for years now, and still haven't found what I'm looking for. But here's what I know.
First, understand smoke point (great info & list here). If you put oil in a pan and heat it to saute and it smokes, then the oil is breaking down into free radicals which are carcinogens. So, you want oils with a high smoke point for frying/sauteing, but don't need that for salads and other non-cooked foods. The more refined an oil, the higher its smoke point.
Second, understand rancidity. When the oil tastes bad and makes food it's cooked in taste bad, it's bad for you. They have the same pesky free radicals. I recently had a bad experience with rancid canola oil, so I now store all my oils in the refrigerator. I can take them out shortly before I use them and they'll reliquify.
olive oil is great in salads and other raw foods. High in monounsaturated fats, so good. Very low smoke point so don't cook with it. I use extra virgin olive oil but am not an expert on the virginity of olive oil.
canola oil - this is what I've long used to stir fry, but the more I learn the less I love it. There's a lot of genetic modification of it, so I definitely go organic.
sunflower oil - This has a high smoke point so I've used it for stir fry. It's nice because it has a completely neutral flavor so doesn't change the food tastes. It's supposedly a healthy oil, though it is high in Omega-6's.
safflower oil - I recently read from Dr. Mercola that this is the best saute oil, nutritionally speaking. I'll give it a shot.
peanut oil - is used here quite a bit. It has a high smoke point and goes well with Cajun cooking. It does have a distinctive taste so be careful if you need a really bland flavor. I recently found it organic at Whole Foods which excites me.
sesame oil - pretty cheap, especially in Asian stores, it adds a great flavor (but a distinctive flavor you wouldn't want in everything).
vegetable shortening & margarine - do not use this horrible crap! It will kill you!
butter is better. Seriously. It has a low smoke point (unless you use ghee/clarified butter, which is still a pretty low smoke point), but butter's nutritional bad rap is unwarranted.
coconut oil - long considered unhealthy, there's considerable evidence to the contrary. It adds a nice coconut flavor to things - I like baking with it and using it to make granola. However, it's one of the few things that gives me heart burn so I've given it up.
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